How is Iron Deficiency Diagnosed?
In order to diagnose iron deficiency your doctor will normally perform a blood test. This test can easily confirm or deny the presence of iron deficiency or iron deficiency anemia in a patient. Doctors usually use a test known as the full blood count (FBC) test which, as the name suggests, involves the counting of the cells in a blood sample.
In order to perform this test, the sample is placed into a machine which is able to calculate the number of red and white blood cells, along with the amount of platelets present in the blood. It also calculates the size of the cells, the amount of hemoglobin present, and the percentage of blood which is comprised of red blood cells (this is known as the hematocrit).
The results from this test is analyzed to determine whether or not a patient is suffering from iron deficiency. However, the test isn’t able to identify the cause of the deficiency, so further tests are often required to diagnose iron deficiency and discover the levels of iron in the blood. Iron is usually stored as a protein called ferritin, so doctors will perform a test to determine the amount of ferritin in the blood. This can help to identify a case of iron deficiency anemia.
Do I Need Any Further Tests?
Several tests may be required to determine the cause of your iron deficiency. It’s very important to find the cause in order to determine the right course of treatment. Sometimes, the cause is obvious (for example pregnancy or heavy menstrual bleeding), but other times it can be very difficult to find the root of the problem.
If you have a particularly hard-to-diagnose case of iron deficiency, further tests may be necessary. Here are some examples of tests that may be used:
• Intestinal tests to determine the presence of internal bleeding. Even if you aren’t struggling with symptoms like stomach pain or diarrhea, the cause of iron deficiency may still be found in the gut. Therefore, these tests are commonly prescribed, along with similar tests that investigate the bowels or rectum. Colonoscopies and sigmoidoscopies are common examples of these sorts of tests.
• Blood test to potentially diagnose celiac disease as celiac disease is a big cause of anemia.
• Stool samples may be taken for analysis. These can be used to identify internal bleeding, bowel conditions or the presence of hookworm.